1150 AD – Aztec Indians created chinampas, which were floating gardens of rectangular plots built on swamps. Since they were incapable of growing crops on the lake’s marshy shore, they built rafts out of reeds, stalks, and roots, topped the rafts with soil and mud from the bottom of the lake, and then drifted out to the center of the water. Crops would grow on top of the rafts as their roots grew through the rafts and down into the water. The rafts often attached together to form floating fields the size of islands (Turner).
1627 – Sir Francis Bacon first introduced the theory of hydroponic gardening and farming methods in his book Sylva Sylvarum, in which he established the idea of growing terrestrial plants without soil (Saylor).
1699 – English scientist, John Woodward, conducted water culture experiments with spearmint and found that plants would grow better in less pure water than they would in distilled water and that plants derive minerals from soil mixed into water solutions (Turner).
1909 – The earliest drawing of a vertical farm was published in Life Magazine, depicting an open-air building of vertically stacked stories of homes cultivating food for consumption (Jurkiewicz).
1915 - American geologist Gilbert Ellis Bailey coined the term “vertical farming” in his book, “Vertical Farming,” in which he introduced a method of underground farming contingent on the use of explosives. Multiplying the depth of fertile land, such explosives allow and enable farmers to farm deeper, while increasing area and securing larger crops. Bailey focused on less land rather than expanding as he observed it was more profitable to double the depth than double the area (Globacorp).
1922 - Seeking efficient techniques to house sizeable communities of people, Swiss architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, “Le Corbusier,” developed Immeubles-Villas, his project consisting of five-story blocks into which one hundred singular apartments are stacked on top of one another. The plan’s basic unit is the single-person apartment, each isolated from its neighbors, giving them all secluded open space imbedded with greenery (Gallagher).
1937 - In a scientific journal article, William Frederick Gericke coined the term “hydroponics,” the process of growing plants in sand, gravel, or liquid, with added nutrients but without soil combining “hydro” meaning water, and “ponos” meaning labor (Jones).
1940 – Hydroponic systems were used in the Pacific during World War II, where US troops cultivated fresh lettuce and tomatoes on barren islands (Jones).
1972 - SITE (Sculpture in the Environment) proposed the concept “Highrise of Homes,” which calls for a conventional steel tower framework accommodating dirt plots, as it supports a vertical community of private homes (SITE).
1975 – Allan Cooperman introduced the nutrient film technique in which a thin film of nutrient solution flows through plastic channels, which contain the plant roots (Jones).
1989 – Architect Kenneth Yeang envisioned mixed-use buildings that move seamlessly with green space in which plant life can be cultivated within open air, known as vegetated architecture. This approach to vertical farming is based on personal and community use rather than production and distribution matters (Mulder).
1999 – American ecologist Dr. Dickson Despommier reinvented vertical farming, as it emerged at Columbia University, promoting the mass cultivation of plant and animal life for commercial purposes in skyscrapers (Globacorp). Vertical farms, several floors tall, will be sited in the heart of the world’s urban centers, providing sustainable production of a secure and diverse food supply, and the eventual restoration of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal farming (Despommier).
2006 – Nuvege, the forerunner in technology for the innovative growth method of hydroponically grown vegetables, developed their proprietary lighting network, which increases the return rate of vegetable growth by balancing light emissions that also advance photosynthesis through amplified levels of carbon dioxide (Inada).
2009 – Sky Green Farms built a vertical farm consisting of over 100 nine-meter tall towers in Singapore where green vegetables such as bak choi and Chinese cabbage are grown, stacked in greenhouses, and sold at local supermarkets (Doucleff). Singapore’s vertical farm is the world’s first water-driven, tropical vegetable urban vertical farm that uses green urban solutions to maintain enhanced green sustainable production of safe, fresh and delicious vegetables, using minimum land, water and energy resources,” (SkyGreens). It uses sunlight as its energy source, and captured rainwater to drive a pulley system to rotate the plants on the grow racks, ensuring an even circulation of sunlight for all the plants (Despommier).
2011 – Dutch agricultural company, PlantLab uses red and blue LEDs instead of sunlight in their vertical farms and grow plants in completely controlled environments. By giving the plants only blue and red light, PlantLab can avoid heating its plants up needlessly, leaving more energy for growth (Hodson).
2012 – Farmed Here, a sustainable indoor vertical farming facility opened in a 90,000 square foot post-industrial building in Bedford Park, IL. Fresh, healthy, local greens such as arugula, basil, and sweet basil vinaigrette are produced here, away from the bugs, diseases, and weather that impact most produce today (Despommier).
2012 – Local Garden, North America’s first ever VertiCrop farm, was constructed in Vancouver, Canada, shifting sustainable farming and food production practices. VertiCrop, a new technology for growing healthy, natural vegetables in a controlled environment maximizes space usage and eliminates need for pesticides. The garden is capable of growing and harvesting up to 3,500 pounds of a variety of fresh greens every week, such as kales, spinach, arugula, endive, lettuce, bak choi, escarole, basil, parsley, chards, etc. (Despommier).